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You might still be lolling in your summer shorts, but one company is calling you to action stations, with Black Friday just three months away. What’s more, Salmon claims it will be not just Black Friday, but a Black Fiveday week, predicting that a record breaking £5 billion spent online from Thursday November 24 through to Cyber Monday.
It says retailers need to be in the midst of their preparations now for that shopping phenomenon – and in order to help them get ready, global digital commerce consultancy Salmon has devised a checklist to ensure they are thinking about their peak trading operations and making the vital requirements.
Black Friday hit the £1billion mark last year in online sales, as Salmon had predicted, and this year Salmon is anticipating that it will be even bigger.
Salmon’s head of managed services, John Beechen, has advice for businesses on what to achieve in order to be truly ready. Beechen said: “Retailers should think about peak trading as a crisis that they know will happen in advance. Preparation is vital and retailers need to consider their business and operational plans for the period.”
His five critical objectives include:
- Rigorous testing. Retailers should be undertaking performance tests of their systems up to peak loads in order to see where their break points are. Simulating a major incident to understand how watertight their contingency plan is will enable retailers to understand how they will cope with a ‘dam burst’ scenario if faced with an unexpected influx of traffic on the day. This will benefit retailers as it is better for them to know where a system will break and allow them to prepare for it.
- Stagger your marketing activities. Peak traffic on Black Friday is inevitable, but with it being expected to become a Black Fiveday week, retailers will benefit from feeding customer deals gradually throughout the week, which will keep consumers shopping during the peak and on Cyber Monday, while reducing strain on infrastructure and fulfilment teams.
- Prepare the business. It is of vital importance that the whole business is aligned in the lead up to and on Black Friday, establishing constant communication between technical operations and the wider business. Now is the time to ensure every department is au fait with the plan for peak trading on November 25 – not just in silo but across the entire business. In particular, being aware of all marketing campaigns and promotions in advance will enable teams to map out when they expect to see the biggest surges of traffic so they can prepare accordingly. Being aligned will ensure all online trading and operations teams can anticipate surges and be ready.
- Have a contingency plan. Regardless of how prepared retailers might be, it is difficult to make Black Friday 100% fail-proof. With fewer than 100 days to go, even if retailers are completely unprepared it’s not too late to put some basic functionality in place. For example, adding a queuing system whereby customers are placed in a waiting line to access the website will help to control the surge and reduce the chances of the site crashing. This is also a good contingency plan for retailers on the day, should they suffer unexpected problems – implementing a queuing system can relieve strain on back-end operations while the problem is fixed. Identify the risks that may arise on Black Friday and create an established list of solutions so action can be taken by the corresponding department from IT and ecommerce to marketing and PR.
- Ensure your staffing plans are set. Retailers need to ensure their staffing plans and shifts are set, with everyone involved in peak operations (including their vendors and suppliers) being aware of their role and responsibility during the period. Shifts should be in place for both Black Friday and the weekend, and contact details published.
Beechen added: “Retailers must ensure that they have laid out clear contingency plans for their teams to respond to issues during the week. The Black Friday week is an excellent opportunity for retailers to win new customers and grow their customer following and ultimately increase sales.
“The retailers who were as prepared as possible, from front-end to back-end, have been the ones to see success.”
Salmon has created ‘The Black Friday and Peak Trading Ecommerce Operations Playbook’, a guide based on Salmon’s experience in supporting the peak operations of several leading UK retailers.
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